Libya Considers Its Ports Unsafe for the Disembarkation of Migrants

Geneva- Approximately 280 migrants who were intercepted today and returned to Libya remain on the overcrowded coast guard vessel, as Libyan authorities refuse to let them disembark. Relevant officials have indicated that due to the intensity in shelling, some of which previously targeted the Tripoli main port, Libya is not considered a safe port. This comes at a time when Italy has declared its ports unsafe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who are at the disembarkation point to provide emergency assistance, report that there are women and children among those intercepted. Our teams are supplying food and water to those onboard, amid increased shelling in the area. Assistance is further complicated due to a COVID-19 curfew in Tripoli. 

“The situation is tragic. Hundreds of people, drained after a perilous 72-hour journey, will spend the night on an overcrowded boat in tense circumstances,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda.  

“The status quo cannot possibly continue. A comprehensive approach to the situation in the central Mediterranean is needed.”  

Driven in part by improved weather conditions and the intensifying conflict, over 500 migrants have departed from Libya this week, attempting to reach Europe. Around 150 of them were rescued by an NGO boat and 67 others arrived in Lampedusa.  

IOM has repeatedly called for the establishment of a clear, safe, and predictable disembarkation mechanism in the central Mediterranean. European states must act now to end the return of migrants rescued at sea to Libya and ensure their safety.   

Despite calls for action, migrants continue to be returned to arbitrary detention. Many over the past few months, have been reported missing, and others are detained in inhumane conditions. Reports also suggest that thousands of others are detained by smugglers and traffickers.   

For more information, please contact Safa Msehli at IOM Geneva, Tel: +41794035526, email: